Obama: Reduce Law School To Two Years

President_Barack_Obama250px-Fast_food_universal_languageAfter leading an assault on civil liberties and privacy in his Administration (as well as blocking efforts to prosecute Bush officials for torture), President Barack Obama may just be the last person who should be giving advice on training lawyers. Yet, Obama told lawyers last Friday that he would like to see law school cut by one-third to reduce time studying legal principles and history. Of course, given the number of constitutional provisions that Obama has effectively negated, it may take less time to study the remaining laws after the Obama years. Before law schools follow his lead to a fast-food version of legal education, we need to ask what we want in our lawyers. The President would reduce legal training to a program slightly longer than current paralegal schools.

Obama told an audience at Binghamton University in New York : “This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it. I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years—because by the third year—in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom,” Obama said. “The third year they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren’t getting paid that much. But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student.”

Now, I have little doubt that an attorney carrying out the Obama policies could get by with even a year of law school. Indeed, you only have to read Article II according to Obama to understand that the president can basically do whatever he wants, including killing any citizens he deems to be a threat.

I have long been a critic of the push for a two-year law school curriculum. It is being proposed as a way to maintain revenue and application levels for law schools. However, it minimizes what is (in my view) necessary to train a fully informed professional in this field. I am highly critical of current programs that omit legal history and legal theory in the training of lawyers. Instead, many schools simply train lawyers like glorified accountants; people who know how to file actions but have little understanding of philosophy and purpose of the law. If the President gets his way, law schools would simply train to the bar exam like a trade school. Offering such courses as electives is nothing more than pretense. With only two years, students will barely have time to take basic courses of torts, criminal law, contracts, civil procedures, constitutional law, and other basic courses. These basic courses extend into the second year where students often take just one or two electives. The just of the time goes to evidence, administrative law, environmental law and the other fundamental areas of study. If you want to add a meaningful clinical experience (which most law schools are seeking to offer) that would cut down your academic courses even further or you would have to forego clinical courses.

Some argue that most lawyers do not use legal theory in their careers. However, this ignores that such training make for lawyers who understand not just the expression but purpose and history of the law. At issue is what type of lawyers we want in our society. The two year proposal represents a fundamental change — reducing lawyers to the lowest common denominator of education. The problem is that this factory approach to education will represent a short term windfall for schools and unleash a race to the bottom. In the end, all legal education will be cheapened and we will flood the country with even more minimally trained lawyers.

For the President to add his voice to this movement is a disgrace. It appears that Obama is not satisfied with the harm done to constitutional law and now advocates the reduction of legal training. His advocacy will have an effect on some bar members and presents a serious danger to legal education in this country. We are facing one of the greatest challenges to our profession in a century. We will either remain committed to the training of a fully educated lawyer or turn toward the type of trade school that the President seems to invite. Whatever we do, this is a conversation that should be confined to those who respect the law, not violate it. That would exclude our president from the conversation.

Source: Legal Times

51 thoughts on “Obama: Reduce Law School To Two Years”

  1. Not choosing to engage is not avoidance.

    I’m perfectly willing to discuss the topic with someone else.

  2. Excuse me, sir, but I believe it was you who brought into the discussion what you termed my “bitterness” towards my decision to attend law school when you wrote:

    “It sounds to me like you’re a little bitter about your choices. Good luck with that. I really mean that. No snark intended. There is plenty you can do besides be a trial attorney with a law degree..”

    Moreover, your perceptions are completely skewed and off the mark. My gravatar (which I copied from elsewhere on the net) speaks to not my dissatisfaction with law school or working in law, but rather with the incompetence exercised by the ABA to properly govern its law schools that misinform potential students re: employment statistics, and then presents the legal labor market as being ‘fine’ despite all evidence indicating it is not. Of course, this is not applicable to myself because I am not in the “legal labor market” as I decided long ago to not pursue that avenue, but still find the actions, or more appropriately, the in-actions of the ABA and various law schools reprehensible.

    However, my career choices and paths, my thoughts on the ABA, whether the downturn in the legal labor market is structural or cyclical, and so forth are not relevant to the overarching discussion of the President’s proposal and Constitutional issues, and I did not bring them into the discussion. You did, at least your (ill informed) perceptions of them, and in doing so completely avoided the overarching conversation.

  3. I know so much law, procedural, evidentiary, administrative, jeesh the whole gamut.
    I have written at least 60 briefs, litigated in federal district courts, federal appellate courts, state courts (county, supreme, appellate divisions, surrogate, family, town), administrative courts (tax, state fair hearing, immigration), a few I can’t recall the names of.
    I have researched the law, the history of the law, the theory of the law, the application and precedents of the law in so many areas it would tedious to list them all.

    I have had at least 8 attorneys tell me that my pleadings and submissions are of the best clarity and breadth of knowledge and citations they had ever seen, and this was only after they had believed that the submissions were by counsel in the first place.

    But I don’t have a law degree.
    I have assisted dozens of people in their own pro se actions, always skirting the fear of practicing law w/o license.

    I have investigated trying to obtain one, but at this stage in my life it is very difficult, and would take another 4 years of full time college.

    For me, a two year course, with rigorous testing to prove that I know what is necessary would be a godsend. I really should have a law degree, as I outclass 90% of all attorneys in the field.

    So, with all due respect to Jonathan Turley, who I respect ad infinitum, I think a 2 year course with rigorous testing at the end, might not be a bad idea.

  4. Obama probably figures the law schools can just cut the year law students spend studying Constitutional law — he did!

  5. @ishobo:

    In America, most undergraduate work is just remedial high school stuff. People learn how to read better, and maybe even learn to write in complete sentences. Plus, they get to learn all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll! That is what is euphemistically called, “The College Experience.” This means that the average four year college might teach 1 1/2 years of actual college level material.

    This serves at least two major purposes.

    One: Provides job security for professors and college employees;

    Two: Keeps the heat off the grade 1 thru 12 teachers and education establishment for failing to do their jobs by burying the shortcomings in more education.

    Some people also think TPTB like the school loan business model, for various reasons.

    There are exceptions.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  6. ishobo,

    That’s not a bad idea. I think that an undergraduate law program combined with a shorter graduate program could offer a workable solution as well. A four year degree coupled with two years of graduate study would provide plenty of time to give a well rounded legal education while reducing costs provided the undergraduate work was properly structured.

  7. I’m a pretty compassionate guy, JD. I have empathy. But you know what never plays well with me? A pity party. It usually doesn’t impress people in the business world or the legal profession either. No one forced you to go to law school. It was your choice. You could have stopped at any time.

    Here’s a hint: if you don’t want people to disengage from you, try getting a better attitude.

    Until then, I get enough fruitless conversation from the trolls. I don’t need more from a boy throwing a fit because he didn’t get what he expected out of life. The real world is tough. Wear a cup. It is not how or how many times you are pushed down by life that makes the measure of a person. It’s how you get up and keep going. Whining solves nothing. In fact, most people find it extremely annoying and self-indulgent.

    If I wanted to talk to children, I’d talk to children.

    Come back when you grow up.

    Maybe then we’ll have a nice conversation about how a lack of fundamentals and the context that history and theory provides in the practical application of Constitutional Law matters in preventing its usurpation and abuse at the hands of government officials and how all of society benefits by improving the overall quality of practicing the Art.

    Until then, I bid you good day.

Comments are closed.